restaurant space to lease in washington dc

How to Effectively Lease Restaurant Space in Washington, D.C.

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    Leasing restaurant space in the nation’s Capital can be an expensive and time-consuming process if you don’t have a guide. Owners may find themselves struggling to find the ideal property to fit their needs, for example, or wondering which type of commercial real estate would be best to successfully run a restaurant. Negotiating restaurant leases is an added hurdle to the already vexing process. 

    This guide aims to help Washington, DC restaurateurs learn more about what they need to know as restaurant tenants before embarking on their rental journeys, including the key things to consider before embarking and the steps involved in the leasing process.

    Things You Need for a Restaurant Lease

    There are three items every restaurant owner must have before deciding on an appropriate space, aside from the important documents such as your business history and credit history for commercial lease applications, that is. This list includes:


    Do not go into the restaurant leasing process assuming everything will just fall into place. Instead, you need to dedicate the right amount of time to the search.

    You will need to find the ideal location, negotiate the lease, and manage any necessary remodeling work, plus apply for the proper licenses and certifications to run your establishment correctly.

    The Right Location

    Make sure you choose the right location for your establishment. Restaurants should fit the demanded taste and service of the local neighborhoods, as well as the overall concept and menu. Will you have the right audience in the geographic area you’re considering?

    lease restaurant space in washington dc

    Take a look at the neighborhood, the dishes you’re planning to offer, and local plazas with available retail space. Research the area thoroughly to find that location’s target market.

    Tenant Representative

    It’s best to hire a tenant representative if you aren’t comfortable negotiating a lease agreement or don’t understand the lease documents. This type of commercial real estate agent can:

    • Review the terms of the lease to make sure they fit your needs
    • Negotiate on your behalf
    • Provide more information about the lease terms and what they may mean for you in the future

    Tenant representation ensures that your needs are met throughout the lease negotiation process, which can prove incredibly valuable as you select the right space for your restaurant.

    6 Easy Steps to Lease Restaurant Space in DC 

    Ready to start looking for your perfect commercial location? Follow these easy steps to begin the search for your restaurant space.

    Step 1: Set your restaurant concept in your mind.

    You may want to have a clear vision of your ideal space in your mind before you start looking for the retail space. How many square feet will you need? Where on the map does your restaurant sit, and how does your restaurant concept fit within that plan? Make sure you have a business plan in place and know what you will need before heading out to tour available spots.

    Step 2: Set your budget.

    If you end up paying too much for your commercial real estate space, you may find that it negatively impacts your business before you even have the chance to open. Ideally, your rent should not cost more than 10% of your gross restaurant sales. Take a look at your anticipated sales, and consider your other operating expenses.

    Make sure you also keep potential emergencies in mind when considering the rental rate you can afford. Your budget may change if you need to shut down dining room space during a health-related or other crisis, for example.

    Step 3: Look for properties.

    There are several methods you can use to find the ideal property for your new restaurant. You can:

    • Search listings online
    • Contact a real estate professional to connect you with available properties
    • Walk through the area where you’d like to have your restaurant and look for available properties
    • Check local listings for available rentals

    Working with a professional broker can make it easier for you to find an available space to rent. Make sure to keep your price point in mind as you search, and be sure your real estate professional is well aware of your price point and needs. You don’t want to walk through the perfect location only to discover that it’s well outside your budget.

    Step 4: Tour properties and ask questions about them.

    Selecting a space isn’t just a question of finding the ideal property. You also need to collect specific data about the space you’re considering, including:

    • Is there an existing hood system, grease interceptor, or other restaurant equipment?
    • How is the kitchen laid out? Does it already fit your needs?
    • What is the price per square foot of each?
    • How much renovation will you need to put in?
    • What other tenants have used the space in the past? How did their businesses perform?
    • Why did the past restaurant close? Does it impact your plans for your new business?
    • Who is the landlord? How do other tenants, retailers, or other restaurateurs feel about them?
    • How long is the lease term?
    • What security deposit will you need to put down?
    • What are you responsible for, and what will the landlord take care of?
    • When can you move in? If it is not currently vacant, when will it be available?

    Keep in mind that rental rates may vary based on a variety of factors, including neighborhood, rent, vacancy rate, presence of other retail or dining establishments, and hundreds of other elements. You may not want to snag the cheapest spot on your list if it fails to fit your other needs.

    Step 5: Conduct lease negotiations.

    Understand your bargaining strength before the negotiation. Remember, you are not stuck with the initial terms offered by the landlord. You can choose to walk away if the landlord does not fit your terms, but there is often more wiggle room than you think. You will have more bargaining power when a space has been vacant for some time and could receive rent concessions, for example.

    If you are unsure of how to negotiate, hire a professional. Having expert real estate agents as your representatives can help ensure you are considering all necessary criteria as you negotiate the ideal lease for your operations. 

    Step 6: Sign the lease.

    Both you and the landlord are bound by your lease’s terms for the duration of it once you sign the rental paperwork. Until that point, the landlord can decide to lease to someone else or you can decide to walk away and choose a different restaurant location.

    signing restaurant lease in washington dc

    You can move in after everything is settled, and finally get started renovating, preparing, and working to get your new business open.

    Work with the Experts to Find Your Perfect Location

    Renting a dining establishment can be a tough process, but you do not have to go through it alone. The real estate professionals at The Genau Group have been helping companies achieve their ideal commercial spaces and leasing term conditions for years, and we can’t wait to help you find the perfect space for your restaurant. 

    Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you negotiate your lease or find the ideal commercial space for your business.